The Tenth Inning Week 8 – Texas Rangers ]]> include($base_url . “/includes/header.htm”); ?>
By Mike Ivcic
Two weeks ago, I wrote about the Texas Rangers as one of three examples during a detailed breakdown of how organizations have handled their young pitching talent. Rangers president Nolan Ryan deserves a ton of credit, along with pitching coach Mike Maddux, for their continued success in developing young, talented pitchers that have performed at a high level in the major leagues this season and in years prior. Still, Ryan doesn’t deserve nearly as much praise for that as he does for something else he’s accomplished.
Making the Texas Rangers the best team in baseball. Again.
As I wrote in the power rankings last week, this is a team that went to back-to-back World Series and fell short – in ’10 against the Giants and ’11 against the Cardinals – and then promptly lost their best starting pitcher (C.J. Wilson) after the 2011 season and their best overall player, annual MVP candidate, and face-of-the-franchise (Josh Hamilton) after the 2012 – to the same division rival. And yet, on May 20, 2013, the Rangers find themselves at 29-15, good for an MLB-best .659 winning percentage and a 12-game lead on the 17-27 Angels, home of the two Texas defectors and the team I picked to win the World Series.
True, it’s certainly not as if the Rangers were left completely bereft of any talent whatsoever when Wilson and Hamilton took their talents to Southern California, but losing players of that magnitude is often a death knell to a team’s playoff hopes. Look at the Brewers when they lost Prince Fielder, or the Marlins every time they’ve traded away talented players. Reloading isn’t typically possible in a baseball world that lives on long-term contracts and homegrown talent – even the Yankees figured that out. So what has made the Rangers so different?
The short answer: depth. The list of impact players on the current Rangers roster that were either drafted or initially signed by the Rangers is staggering. In the last ten years, ten players – including the starting first and second basemen and three-fifths of the current starting rotation – were drafted by Texas and have played for the big league ballclub:
And while that doesn’t necessarily seem like a huge coup, there are two mitigating factors in play. First, here’s the list of players drafted by Texas that were traded away:
So that certainly adds to the aura of the Rangers scouting and drafting prowess. But the real kicker is how well Texas has done in first discovering and then evaluating the talent in Latin America. Once the gold mine of teams like the Yankees, Mets, and Braves, the Caribbean islands have suddenly become the stomping ground for the Rangers, who have plucked the following players from countries like Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and the Nether Antilles and ultimately brought them to the big leagues. That list includes:
Another player that could be included on this list – Edinson Volquez, the key chip sent to Cincinnati in the trade that brought Hamilton to the Rangers initially.
Thus, without trades, free agency, or any other acquisitions like rule 5 picks, Texas would have already assembled an excellent core team. Throw in some of the players the Rangers acquired during the lean years as a return for trading away better talent (the method through which they obtained Nelson Cruz and David Murphy, most notably) and suddenly the Rangers are a contending team without spending a single dollar to sign anyone in the free agent market not already part of the organization.
This downplays, of course, the role that free agency has played in the Rangers success. Players like Adrian Beltre, Joe Nathan, Colby Lewis, Joakim Soria, and Lance Berkman all became part of the ballclub in the more modern way – leaving their former teams and inking their name to a deal with Ryan and the Rangers. Some, like Beltre and to a lesser extent Berkman, were huge acquisitions that instantly made the Rangers better. Others, like Nathan and Lewis, were considered stopgaps that ultimately became key pieces for the organization, and of course the Rangers are still waiting to get something from the oft-injured Soria. Plus, it never hurts to win the posting-fee game to sign a player like Yu Darvish, but it’s safe to say that this is a Texas team that’s been built from within and not from without – and that’s not likely to change any time soon.
For as much as Texas struggled at the major league level during the early 2000’s, it’s safe to say that this organization has consistently been atop the league when it comes to drafting high school and college players, as well as procuring talent from outside the U.S. Even beyond the last ten years, players like Wilson, Michael Young, and Mark Teixeira were all initially properties of the Rangers, further establishing the Rangers as an organization that actually has a clue. They didn’t get to the top overnight – it took a long list of solid draft picks and good free agent signings (and not signings) to create the stable framework that currently exists in Arlington – so even with the defections of Hamilton and Wilson, it shouldn’t a surprise that Texas is still the best team in all of baseball.
If only I’d seen that coming two months ago…
Three series to watch this week…
Three series to watch this weekend…
Next week: The return of the “Playoff Dead List”
Check out my weekly column, “The Tenth Inning,” every Monday at ultimatecapper.com
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